Monday, November 05, 2007

The Churchill Series – Nov. 6, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

You know it was tough being Winston S. Churchill during WW II.

And you learn one reason why when you read the diaries of the man who was Britain’s Chief of the Imperial General Staff for most of the war, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke (later Lord Alanbrooke).

Indented below is an extract from a review of Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, War Diaries, 1939-1945, eds. Alex Danchev and Daniel Todman ( Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001). The extract includes diary quotes which reveal some of what Alanbrooke was thinking as he worked with Churchill to assure the success of the Allied war effort.

The reviewer is Christopher C. Harmon, who at the time of his 2001 review was academic advisor to the Churchill Centre.

[General] George Marshall may be America's senior military man, but in these pages it is "almost impossible to make him grasp the true concepts of a strategic situation." Instead he will "hedge and defer decisions until such time as he had to consult his assistants. Unfortunately, his assistants were not of the required caliber...."

The assistants included Dwight Eisenhower, a charming, adept and "hopeless" general. "He literally knows nothing of the requirements of a commander in action," wrote Alanbrooke, "...a very, very limited brain from a strategic point of view."

More upsetting, at least to the British, battle-hardened UK officers are equally inept at strategy.

John S. V. Gort, commander of the British Expeditionary Force rushed to France in 1939, is charming and good, but his "brain has lately been compared to that of a glorified boy scout!....[H]e just fails to be able to see the big picture."

General Sir Harold Alexander, who was admired by Churchill, has "Many fine qualities but no very great strategic vision....It was very doubtful whether he was fit to command his Army" in North Africa.

What about a secondary theater like India? No -- he "has not got the brains."

Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations, is "quite irresponsible, suffers from the most desperate illogical brain, always producing red herrings."
The entire review is here.

More tomorrow about Alanbrooke and Churchill.


John said...


How do you rate the one-volume Jenkins biography? I thought it was pretty good, and a fast read. What's better?